Adipurush movie review: Only Om Raut can answer whether he wanted Adipurush to be taken seriously as a retelling or an epic or an amusing, cartoon show to entertain kids. Either way, he fails, primarily because his creation, above anything, lacks soul.
In this story of good vs bad, the only fight that the team of Adipurush sets up is of bad vs worse.
Director: Om Raut
Actors: Prabhas, Kriti Sanon, Saif Ali Khan
Adapting a mythology is a double-edged sword. A myth, by definition, allows room for multiple interpretations. In fact, it’s ever-evolving. You can add, subtract and create a new version of the same story as you like. But when the same myth becomes bigger than any truth, it restricts imagination from flying. So, first things first.
Watching Om Raut's Adipurush, his adaptation of the Hindu mythological epic Ramayana, with a fixed lens, expecting it to look like the earlier popular versions of the story, is unfair. But it's how the director has adapted the screenplay from Valmiki's Ramayana and treated the story that's not only inherent to practising Hindus but also known to a majority in the country that should decide its merit.
Unsurprisingly, the film stands as the poorest take on the story, and is only an elongated version of the poor visual units that the makers released during the promotions. In fact, what’s surprising is that the film is worse than the inhibitions one had while stepping into the theatre for a morning show. Leave aside the religious value of the epic, the story of Ramayana is everything cinematic. From drama, romance, grounding sentiment of justice to the hero vs villain arc that Indian cinema especially love to exploit, Ramayana is the stuff dream screenplays are made of.
So, how terrible could Raut’s imagination get? Turns out it’s the lack of it that results in an insipid, lack-lustre, even laughable three-hour-long watch. Watching Adipurush looks like the work of a student, who thinks if he adds some of his own knowledge to a copied answer, he would appear smart. But in reality, ends up getting caught.
So, you have all the highlights of the Ramayana intact in Adipurush, but only half-baked and sometimes tweaked to suit the filmmaker’s politics than serve the story. For instance, Raut’s Game of Thrones inspired Raavan, who is unredeemable and lives a life of White Walker with very little insight into his psyche, pleads Janaki (Sita) to marry him because his sister Shurpanakha told him he would become formidable the day he weds her. It was jarring to see a man, who displays nothing else than disgusting arrogance throughout the film, using no force to get what he wants and even becoming vulnerable in front of a woman. This has nothing to do with Saif’s acting prowess, which turns out to be one of the few watchable aspects of the film. But it speaks a lot about Raut’s inability to dwell deep into an otherwise fascinating character. In fact, the filmmaker’s ideology is quite in line with the right-wing image of Raavan as a one-dimensional sinister demon.
It will be wrong to not mention Kriti Sanon while talking about credibility in performances. Besides Saif, she becomes the saving grace of this high-on-budget low-on-emotion mess of a film. Since the announcement itself, one knew Kriti wouldn’t have much of a screen time. After all, South superstar Prabhas was playing Lord Ram, who would go up against Saif’s Raavan. While it takes a few moments to warm up to Kriti’s dialogue delivery, which lacks the authenticity of the ancient time that the story is set in, her ethereal screen presence and expressions, combined with her ability to pause and react at the right time, makes one appreciate every time she appears on screen.
In fact, in many scenes, Kriti seems to act for both and Prabhas, who is the biggest downer in the film that revolves around him. How many times have you had a movie avoid close-ups of its protagonists? In Adipurush alone, there are at least 10 times that a scene demanded a closer look at Ram, for the audience to feel what he feels. Raut instead takes a wider shot, distracting the audience with the stunning, daunting scenery. The failure is not the director’s. It’s of the actor, who looks more wooden than a wood log. Eyes devoid of any emotion, a slight smile plastered on the face throughout and no other facial muscle participating, Prabhas cuts the most forgettable picture of Ram, who is not only worshipped by people but even as a screen character is as heroic as a hero can get. Ram is obedient, an affectionate husband, a protector, and a believer in justice. He is also calm, fair and soft. But Prabhas’ Ram only shines momentarily when he is giving war cries, which honestly is reminiscent of his Bahubali avatar.
In all the emotionally vulnerable and humane moments, the actor looks nothing more than a pole. Whatever little emotions one might feel for Ram is also courtesy Sharad Kelkar, who has voiced the character in the Hindi version of Ramayana.
Devdatta Nage as Bajrang (Hanuman) doesn’t deserve much mention, except that the portrayal ruins one’s memory of all the strongly built but emotional and naive Hanumans one grew up watching and reading about. Apart from the two performances mentioned above, the only redeeming quality of Adipurush is its music. The score by Sachin and Ankit Balhara, and the songs by Ajay-Atul and Sachet-Parampara, lend some aesthetic value to the film. But they remain largely ineffective in uplifting scenes that have zero to little depth and grandeur.
The film’s VFX is yet to be spoken about. Again, no surprise, it is more atrocious than what one saw in the film’s trailer or teaser. The action sequences look juvenile, resembling dated video games. Raavan looks less like a man who is 10-headed but more like a cartoon character parents made us wary of as a child. Only Raut can answer whether he wanted Adipurush to be taken seriously as a retelling or an epic or an amusing, cartoon show to entertain kids. Either way, he fails, primarily because his creation, above anything, lacks soul. Not a single sequence or even the most anticipated highlights of the story moves one or evokes any emotion. In this story of good vs bad, the only fight that the team of Adipurush sets up is of bad vs worse.